Kari Arnason knows a thing or two about mentality.

Whether as an individual or as part of a team, he’s well versed on defying the odds through talent, of course, but also strength of character.

He wouldn’t have played at a World Cup and European Championships with Iceland had that not been the case.

At Euro 2016, he man-marked Cristiano Ronaldo in a draw with eventual winners Portugal and was part of the side that knocked out England.

But Arnason enjoyed upsetting the apple cart at club level too.

None more so than six years ago with Malmo when they took on Celtic in a Champions League play-off tie and emerged victorious.

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That Hoops team, managed by Ronny Deila, featured Craig Gordon, Virgil Van Dijk, Dedryck Boyata and Scott Brown.

But the Swedes and Arnason thrived on their underdog tag to defeat the Parkhead side.

This week, Malmo will attempt a repeat against Rangers – this time in the third qualifying round of the competition.

Before Arnason signed for them in 2015 they had already beaten the Ibrox club 2-1 on aggregate in August 2012.

And a year later in the Europa League the Swedes humiliated Hibs in a 9-0 aggregate rout that included an astonishing 7-0 win at Easter Road.

So why are they so dangerous and problematic for our sides to deal with?

Arnason enjoyed two seasons in Scotland at Aberdeen in 2011-12 and 2017-18 so he knows all about our game as well as the Scandinavian scene.

And he points to two things. Firstly, the under-estimated stature of the Swedish champions.

And, more importantly, their steely Scandinavian mindset that so often proves doubters wrong.

Steven Gerrard’s side are huge favourites to win the Champions League qualifier and the 38-year-old understands why.

But he has warned Gers fans, who might consider the outcome as a foregone conclusion, that the side which brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic through the ranks as a kid will be no pushovers.

Malmo celebrate their Champions League victory over Celtic
Malmo celebrate their Champions League victory over Celtic in 2015

Now back in his homeland with Vikingur, Arnason told MailSport : “Malmo always have a strong team – and they always compete.

“It should be a good test for Rangers.

“Obviously, Rangers are flying high and I see they recently beat Real Madrid in a friendly.

“Even if it wasn’t Madrid’s strongest team, that’s still an impressive result.

“But Malmo will give them a game, 100 per cent. They are always dangerous.

“Malmo are by far the biggest club in Sweden and possibly even Scandinavia.

“They always have good Danish players and you saw how good Denmark are at Euro 2020 this summer. Sweden are always around the major tournaments as well. There’s a lot of tradition at Malmo.

“They had a very good team in the 1970s and 1980s when they were challenging for European trophies (they reached the European Cup Final in 1979 but lost to Nottingham Forest).

“So that history is always there. They’re a big club and capable of winning big games. It’s also a well-funded club.

“They have more money than the rest of the Swedish league clubs combined so they’re always going to be strong.

“Malmo like to be the underdog so can cause a surprise.

“They know clubs like Rangers and Celtic, where there is so much expectation, will always be favourites against them.

“But that’s the Scandinavian mentality for you. Coming from where I’m from, Iceland, we love that too.

“We’ve shown that in recent years with the national team. It’s great because it takes all the pressure off you.

“I’d imagine everyone at Rangers will expect just to roll over Malmo.

“But I have a funny feeling that won’t be the case.”

When it comes to a strong mentality, Ibrox captain James Tavernier has silenced plenty of critics on that score.

After six years without winning a major trophy with Rangers, there were question marks over whether he was psychologically robust enough to cut it in Glasgow.

Arnason spent the best part of a season with Tavernier at Rotherham in 2014 when they were part of the Millers side that won the play-off final against Leyton Orient at Wembley.

The Icelander admits that Tavernier’s quality was never in question, although defensively he was still raw.

And Arnason is delighted that he’s proved he’s got character in abundance by leading Rangers to last season’s Premiership title.

Now he’d love to see him go a step further and reach the Champions League – albeit at Malmo’s expense.

James Tavernier with the Premiership trophy
Tavernier has grown into a true Rangers captain

Arnason said: “It was hard to say if Tav would go on to bigger and better things when we were at Rotherham.

“He had bundles of talent and was good going forward from right-back.

“But down south, in that league, the games were scrappy and we had to defend for our lives at times. And defensively I got a bit frustrated with him.

“I gave him a bit of a hard time back then when he was young and learning his trade – but he was only a young kid.

“He’s improved dramatically from a defensive point of view since then and grown into a fantastic footballer.

“I would be pleased to see him reach the Champions League group stage because I always want to see my former team-mates do well.

“He’s done a great job at Rangers and most importantly, has shown a terrific strength of character.

“I’d say that’s his most important feature now. He always had the talent.

“The question was, did he have the mentality? But he has shown he’s got that as well. His goals and assist record for Rangers is incredible.

“But I always remember how good he was going forward.

“He has a wonderful right-foot and is always been a threat from corners and set-pieces with that delivery.

“He has been a major asset for Rangers.”

Gerrard is looking to lead the club to the Champions League group phase for the first time since 2009.

Arnason has been hugely impressed by the work he has done at Ibrox – not just in revitalising Rangers but also boosting the Scottish game’s profile in Europe.

He’d love to see him stay longer but expects boyhood club
Liverpool will come calling sooner rather than later.

Arnason said: “Gerrard has done a great job and been wonderful for Scottish football.

“I’m not sure Aberdeen fans will be happy with me saying that!

“But he has put a spotlight on the Scottish league.

“Everyone knows how big Rangers are but they were in turmoil for many years. They’ve come a long way under Gerrard.

“The problem for Rangers is that I assume he’ll be taking over Liverpool as soon as he gets the chance.

“That’s the sad truth probably for Rangers supporters. For their sake, hopefully he stays there for as long as possible.”